Tuesday, July 01, 2008

Generation of lost opportunity?

Article on Live Science indicates happiness is gradually on the increase worldwide, but figures for USA could be brought down by post war baby boomers.

Baby boomers are generally more miserable than other generations, but the difference may be so slight that it's not worth noting. A survey released June 25 from Pew Research Center shows boomers rate their lives on a scale of 1 to 10 at a 6.2. People over 62 years of age averaged out at 6.7 while the 18 to 41 age group rated 6.5.

6.2 for the boomers (age 44 to 62) is the lowest value in this satisfaction measure, but it could be an insignificant finding, or close to the margin of statistical error.

Still, it looks like the whole world is getting slightly happier. That counters many folks who think things are getting rougher. Maybe the world isn't "all going to hell in a hand basket."

Excerpting from article:

"It's a surprising finding," said University of Michigan political scientist Ronald Inglehart, who headed up the survey. "It's widely believed that it's almost impossible to raise an entire country's happiness level."

Denmark is the happiest nation and Zimbabwe the most glum, he found.

The United States ranks 16th.

The results of the survey, going back an average of 17 years in 52 countries and involving 350,000 people, will be published in the July 2008 issue of the journal Perspectives on Psychological Science. Researchers have asked the same two questions over the years: "Taking all things together, would you say you are very happy, rather happy, not very happy, not at all happy?" And, "All things considered, how satisfied are you with your life as a whole these days?"

A Happiness Index created from the answers rose in 40 countries between 1981 and 2007, and it fell in the other 12.

Scientists had thought happiness is stable over time when looking at entire societies." "Most previous research suggests that people and nations are stuck on a 'hedonic treadmill,'" Inglehart said. "The belief has been that no matter what happens or what we do, basic happiness levels are stable and don't really change."

So Inglehart's team was surprised that happiness "rose substantially." They speculate reasons for the sunny outlooks include societal shifts in recent decades: Low-income countries such as India and China have experienced unprecedented rates of economic growth; dozens of medium-income countries have democratized; and there has been a sharp rise of gender equality and tolerance of ethnic minorities and gays and lesbians in developed societies.

Previous research has found that happiness is partly inherited and that money doesn't buy much of it.

Yet the new survey finds people of rich countries tend to be happier than those of poor countries. And controlling for economic factors, certain types of societies are much happier than others.

"The results clearly show that the happiest societies are those that allow people the freedom to choose how to live their lives," Inglehart said.

A survey released last week found one reason America doesn't top the list: Baby Boomers are generally miserable compared to other generations.

So, I wonder what's wrong with us baby boomers?

Volumes of research and speculation must be out there, but here's my take.

Lost opportunity.

A big part of the baby boom generation started making news with promises for counter-culture. Being less materialistic, freer love, peace, environmentalism.

Well, it kind of sold out. Some of that idealism died in drugs and alcoholism. Other trends succumbed to yuppyism and the rising cost of living.

Still there is some of what once was called Aquarian conspiracy that's been integrated into mainstream society.

I even remember a book sometime back in the 1980s about Aquarian Conspiracy.

Things have stepped forward on stuff like gay rights and green technology, but expectations are high. Expectations often remain way out ahead of social realities. When that's the case, it seems like fertile ground for disappointment.

Still, the difference between 6.2 and even 6.7 rating for happiness isn't a giant chasm. It looks like post war is almost as happy as other generations.

We can hang in there as the world slowly improves. That is if greed and overpopulation doesn't destroy it first.

In my next life, after I'm reincarnated in some form, they will have finished that bicycle trail all the way from Bellingham to Mount Baker. It will be more peaceful than the traffic world of Mount Baker Highway. Still, Mount Baker Highway is tolerable for the most part. It's probably an improvement over being thrown from one's horse after she stumbled in a rut on some wagon road.

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